U.S. companies may trail their counterparts in Europe and Asia by a considerable distance when it comes to enthusiasm for green initiatives (see "Hot or Not?"), but perhaps they should think again. In his new book, Green Recovery, green-business expert Andrew Winston argues that companies can achieve a quick (12-to-18-month) payback on many enviro-friendly initiatives, with five areas ripe for immediate action:
1. Facilities. Improvements to lighting, heating, and cooling systems can not only save companies money (Intercontinental Hotels, for example, spent $400,000 on compact fluorescent lightbulbs and saved $1.2 million) but in some cases can also improve the quality of the work environment for employees by providing more natural light and better air circulation.
2. IT systems. Computer servers are enormous consumers of electricity, so the data center is a prime target for greater efficiency. But small things count too, like setting all printers to produce double-sided pages and installing software that switches all computers to sleep mode at night.
3. Distribution and fleet. Training drivers to operate for maximum fuel efficiency and programming vehicles to reduce idling and moderate speed are helpful, and hybrid trucks may now be worth a look.
4. Telecommuting. Microsoft, for one, saved $90 million in one year by substituting teleconferencing for travel. And "working from home" is no longer a euphemism for "unofficial personal day."
5. Waste. Should you pay to have your trash carted away when you could instead recycle it at no charge or even sell (some of) it at a profit? It may be time to talk trash.